Hard Case or Gig Bag? Which one should I choose for my Instrument?

What you transport your instrument in is not the most exciting subject to write about but it is an important consideration when protecting your prized possession. Do you go for a large, potentially bulky, hard case or a padded gig bag that makes carrying your instrument easier. Let's look at the pros and cons of each.

Hard Case


  • Solid protection from impact and external loads.
  • Moulded interior holds instrument securely in place preventing internal movement.
  • Can be bulky and awkward to carry.
  • Zips can break easily if not careful.
  • Limited styles and colours.

The majority of traditional musical instruments are supplied in a hard case although they are no longer always the style that were around years ago. When I first started to learn the euphonium (...a few years ago now) you could guarantee that nearly all instruments had a hard plastic case, usually with clasps to hold it together. The insides were generally just empty shells and often the design meant that the instrument could move around slightly if you shook it. If the case was stationary and say someone stood on it or placed a heavy object on top, the instrument was unlikely to suffer any damage. However, if the case was 'thrown about' (similar to how you see baggage handlers carrying out their duties at the airport!) the movement inside the case could cause damage to an instrument that didn't fit snugly.

The favoured option for most manufacturers these days tends to be a hard polystyrene/styrofoam moulded shell usually with a zippable canvas exterior. This makes the overall outfit lighter and because it is moulded internally to the exact shape of the instrument the movement inside is limited. This means less chance of damage when the instrument is swung/thrown about (not that I'd recommend doing that, but we all know it happens, particularly when children are involved). The zips generally work well but we do see a number of broken ones, usually caused by players trying to lift the lid of the case without opening the full length of the zip.

The real downside with hard cases is that they tend to be bulky and cumbersome, making them difficult to carry, particularly for larger instruments of the orchestra. They are also not always the nicest looking things and very few could be classed as 'cool'. Now I'm aware that looks shouldn't be important but try telling that to your teenage daughter when she has to carry her Tenor Horn to school. Hard cases tend to be only available in one colour and that is usually black, there isn't much choice available for anyone wanting to brighten up their instrumental life.



  • Good choice of styles and colours.
  • Lightweight, easy to carry, particularly for smaller children.
  • Padded exterior absorbs minor bumps and knocks.
  • Plenty of pockets/storage space for accessories.
  • No rigid shell which can lead to damage if other items are piled on top.

Gig bags have been around for many years now and are still as popular as ever. In varying shapes, sizes and colours they give the musician the option to express a bit of individuality. From a practical perspective, transporting your instrument is much easier. Most are fitted with backpack straps as well as a standard carrying handle. They are perfect for students walking to school or needing to manoeuvre around a crowded bus. There are usually ample zip pockets located on various parts of the case which can be used for storing accessories.

When it comes to safeguarding your instrument (which is ultimately the point) gig-bags are great for protecting against minor bumps and bashes. The padded exterior has a certain amount of give that absorbs minor impacts preventing damage to the instrument inside. The only time when a gig bag might let you down is if it ends up under a pile of other instruments, or maybe suitcases in the hold of an aeroplane. As it has no rigid shell to take the weight you will probably end up with a slightly squashed instrument when you remove it from the pile.

In My Opinion

For me the gig-bag will always win through, unless I wanted to take my instrument on a plane. The ease with which you can carry an instrument, the colour options and additional storage compartments means it's the option I'd recommend for most players. In recent years the choice of manufacturers has grown considerably but my favourite range is still the one produced by Tom & Will, followed closely by the budget options from Chord. That said, if I played a priceless Stradivarius violin I may well decide to stick with a hard case (just to be sure!). Which just goes to prove that there's not a right or wrong answer here, it depends on your individual requirements, taste and what instrument you play.

View a wide range of gigbags and Cases below:

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